Wednesday, 7 July 2010

KHL Grabs A Big Name

The off-season is always an interesting time when it comes to teams trying to sign players to improve their squads. There are still a large number of excellent players available on the free agent market as of Wednesday evening, but the marquee goaltender of this year's off-season has made a decision if all the reports are correct. After being told that his services were no longer required in San Jose, Evgeni Nabokov is going home. Well, close to home. It's not exactly Kazakhstan, but the KHL came calling as St. Petersburg offered up a four-year deal for Nabokov to tend to their nets. And, as the reports have suggested, Nabokov signed his name on the dotted line.

Now there's nothing new about the KHL going after the NHL's discarded stars. Players such as Alexei Yashin, Sergei Zubov, Sergei Fedorov, and Dominik Hasek have all signed lucrative contracts after making millions of dollars in the NHL. If anything, the KHL is like an NHL player's country club: older players making lots of money without having to go through all the rigors of an 82-game season. It's a good life if you can get it.

However, the KHL has now picked up another legitimate star from the NHL. Last year, Nikita Filatov made the hop across the pond to play in his home country, and Alexander Radulov left North America for the KHL in 2008. Getting a goaltender of Evgeni Nabokov's calibre is a major play for the KHL.

There's no doubt that SKA St. Petersburg is now the odds-on favorite for the Gagarin Cup next season. In adding Nabokov, St. Petersburg gets the 2001 Calder Trophy winner who has only posted an impressive 293-178-66 record with a career 2.39 GAA, .912 save percentage, and 50 shutouts. Those numbers are rivaled by only Hasek in terms of NHL careers for goaltenders in the KHL. Nabokov might set a number of records next season if he continues to play as well as he has in San Jose.

While there has been a lot of talk about his mediocre playoff record of 40-38, there is no doubt that Nabokov was one of the better goaltenders in the NHL. The KHL has some very good players, but it hasn't yet reached the level of play in the NHL, and this will benefit Nabokov and, in turn, St. Petersburg greatly. 40 wins is a definite possibility for St. Petersburg, and a shot at 50 wins is not out of the realm of possibilities.

I wish Evgeni Nabokov good luck as he suits up in Russia next season, and I'll keep my eye on him as the 2010-11 season progresses. And, if he gets a little luck to go with all his talent, he might be the goaltender we're talking about in leading his team to the Gagarin Cup.

And he may just be the best signing the KHL has seen to date.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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